March 30 2014
– Hopes of a breakthrough in the search for flight MH370 have been dashed, with objects pulled from the ocean not related to the Malaysia Airlines jet.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says a Chinese ship retrieved objects from the southern Indian Ocean yesterday after a Chinese military plane reportedly spotted material bearing colours from the missing jet.
However, it’s believed the items are not related to the flight and are more likely fishing objects or rubbish, AMSA said this morning.
The search for debris from the doomed flight shifted north on Friday after new analysis of satellite data.
As up to 10 ships combed the new area, former Defence force chief Angus Houston has reportedly been named to co-ordinate the international search effort for the plane carrying 239 passengers and crew, which disappeared on March 8.
The retired Air Chief Marshal Houston will lead a new joint agency co-ordination centre in Perth, News Corp reports.
Four Australian and Chinese ships arrived in the updated search area, 1850km off Perth, yesterday and another six ships are expected to reach the zone today.
They are focused on trying to find and pick up various objects spotted by search planes in the past two days.
AMSA says weather in the search area is forecast to worsen today with light showers and low cloud.
An Australian Navy ship fitted with a black box detector is also scheduled to leave Perth today.
The continuing search comes after an Australian PC3 Orion search plane also sighted objects in a different part of the search area, but the maritime safety authority did not describe those objects in greater detail.
An image captured a day earlier by a New Zealand plane showed a white rectangular object floating in the sea, but it was not clear whether it was related to the missing jet or was just sea trash.
Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 while bound from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and investigators have been puzzled over what happened aboard the plane, with speculation ranging from equipment failure and a botched hijacking to terrorism or an act by one of the pilots.
The latter was fuelled by reports that the pilot’s home flight simulator had files deleted from it, but Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said checks, including one by the FBI, had turned up no new information.
“What I know is that there is nothing sinister from the simulators, but of course that will have to be confirmed by the chief of police,” he said.
Newly analysed satellite data shifted the search zone on Friday, raising expectations that searchers may be closer to getting physical evidence that the plane crashed in the Indian Ocean with 239 people aboard.
That would also help narrow the hunt for the wreckage and the plane’s black boxes, which could contain clues to what caused the plane to be so far offcourse.
The US Navy has already sent equipment that can detect pings from the back boxes, and Mr Abbott said the equipment would be put on an Australian naval ship.
“It will be taken to the most prospective search area and if there is good reason to deploy it, it will be deployed,” he said, without giving a time frame. Other officials have said it could take days for the ship — the Ocean Shield — to reach the search area.
The newly targeted zone is nearly 1130 kilometres northeast of sites the searchers have crisscrossed for the past week. The redeployment came after analysts determined that the Boeing 777 may have been travelling faster than earlier estimates and would therefore have run out of fuel sooner.
The new search area is closer to Perth than the previous one, with a flying time of two and a half hours each way, allowing for five hours of search time, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
AMSA said five P-3 Orions — three from Australia and one each from Japan and New Zealand — plus a Japanese coast guard jet, the Chinese Ilyushin IL-76, and one civilian jet acting as a communications relay took part yesterday.
Some family members in Beijing said they want to fly to Kuala Lumpur to seek more answers from the government, but an airline representative said it may have to wait a day because of a lack of hotel space this weekend because of the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix race today.
Steve Wang, a representative of some of the Chinese families in Beijing, said about 50 relatives wanted to go to Malaysia because they were not happy with the responses given by Malaysian government representatives in China.
“Because they sent a so-called high-level group to meet us, but they have not been able to answer all our questions,” he said. “It’s either they are not in charge of a certain aspect of work or that it’s still being investigated, or it’s not convenient for them to comment.”
Malaysia Airlines’ commercial director, Hugh Dunleavy, said in Beijing that the airline was trying to facilitate the relatives’ travel to Kuala Lumpur, but that plans had not been confirmed because of the difficulties in booking hotels this weekend.
If investigators can determine that the plane went down in the newly targeted zone — which spans about 319,000 square kilometres — recovery of its flight data and cockpit voice recorders could be complicated.
Much of the sea floor in the area is about 2000 metres below the surface, but depths may reach a maximum of about 6000 metres at its easternmost edge.
The hunt for the plane focused first on the Gulf of Thailand, along the plane’s planned path. But when radar data showed it had veered sharply west, the search moved to the Andaman Sea, off the western coast of Malaysia, before pivoting to the southern Indian Ocean, southwest of Australia.